The Korf Blog

The inside story: our research,
development and opinions

8 July 2021
JBL Paragon — Restoration Complete!
It was one of the easier restorations, largely because a) we started from a complete and functional Paragon and b) we had an absolutely amazing carpenter taking care of the enclosure. The Viennese fine furniture tradition is alive and well!

In this case, I think that pictures do speak louder than words. Glad that we managed to preserve both the original colour and the matte texture of the surfaces. Because our Paragon would reside in a place that's open to the public, we've made acrylic protectors for the top surface.
Matches well with a studio EMT dolly. Can't say the same for bottom-of-the-line PrimaLuna amp that is sadly incapable of controlling the 15" woofers well. Despite its vintage and looks, the Paragon is not a tube-friendly speaker.
Here's a short list of what had to be done with the innards:

  • N7000 crossovers: recapped, all 10460 JBL caps were bad. Cored inductances replaced with air core ones
  • LX5 crossovers: switches rebuilt. Original caps, surprisuingly, turned out to be perfectly ok
  • All crossover connectors were replaced with Abbatron 2809
  • 375 drivers: diaphragms replaced with Radian 1245 (aluminium), damping foam replaced, damaged connectors replaced with Abbatron 2809
  • LS15A: reconed with Simply Speakers kit that was a pleasure to use
  • H5038 horns, 375 and 075 drivers: chipped crinkle paint repaired
  • All crossover faceplates and control knobs repainted
I thought of doing a series of "before and after" shots, but decided to do a sort of "restoration collage" instead.
Photo by Jacob
Photo by Leio
Photo by Marion
Photo by Jacob
Photo by Jacob
Photo by Shifaaz
Photo by Sven
Photo by Ed
Well, that's all good, you would say, but how does it sound?

There's certainly still some fine-tuning to do. And I have not even started matching an amplifier to it. But what I hear so far is very promising. The magic mids are there, the presence is uncanny, and there's not a hint of harshness anywhere. All is a bit disjointed, true, but we (and a monster solid state amp) will work on it.
People dropped whatever they were doing, came over, and stood mesmerized, listening
In the whole process of acquisition, restoration and fine-tuning, I was most surprised by the reaction of non-audiophiles to Paragon's sound. People dropped whatever they were doing, came over, and stood mesmerized, listening. This happened with all the sources, from a $50 FM tuner to a $5000+ turntable.

We were privileged to work with many impressive and visually imposing speakers in the past — R2-D2-shaped B&Ws, Altecs, Tannoys, Klipsh La Scalas, Infinity IRS etc. None generated as much interest, or as many remarks "I had no idea the speaker can do that!" None unglued so many people from their smartphones so quickly. Working on the Paragon, I witnessed more listeners being emotionally moved by recorded music than in many decades of dealer demonstrations and hi-fi shows.

The JBL Paragon is really special. Perhaps it symbolizes the opportunities audio industry missed when it went down the path of "scientific" measurements and "objective truth" in reproduction. In the pursuit of a perfect sound, the emotional connection got lost.

Will I recommend the JBL Paragon as a main speaker in a dedicated listening environment? Probably not. But for those who refuse to confine their music to the basement room, it might just be the right thing.

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